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Suwanee II (Id. No. 1320)


USS Suwanee (Id. No. 1320) with American soldiers returning from World War I on board, steaming right to left.
Caption: Panoramic photograph (by Sargeant, of Columbia, S.C.), of Suwanee (Id. No.1320) with homecoming troops, perhaps arriving at Charleston, S.C., on 15 June 1919. (Naval History & Heritage Command Photograph NH 104801; donation of Dr. Mark Kulikowski, 2007)

(Screw Steamer: displacement 15,950; length 491'2"; beam 59'2"; draft 26'7" (aft); speed 11.5 knots; armament 2 3-inch)

The Navy retained the name that this ship carried at the time of her transfer from the U.S. Shipping Board.

Mark, a large German freighter, was built in 1913 by Bremer Vulkan Aktiengesellschaft, Vegesack, Germany, for the North German Lloyd Co. of Bremen. When World War I broke out in August 1914, she took refuge at Manila and was interned there. She was seized by the U.S. Government on 6 April 1917 and turned over to the U.S. Shipping Board (USSB) for operation. After repairs of damage to her main engine, which had been sabotaged by her crew, she sailed from Manila to Hong Kong on 9 June 1917 with a more severely sabotaged ex-German ship, Coblenz (later the American Sachem), in tow. After delivering Coblenz to a shipyard, Mark loaded cargo in Japan and carried it to San Francisco.

Mark was renamed Suwanee in around August 1917, and at about the same time she was assigned the identification number (Id.No.) 1320 after having been inspected in the Twelfth Naval District for possible Navy use. She was subsequently assigned to the War Department and was probably operated by the Shipping Board on Army account with a civilian crew for the remainder of the war.

After the end of hostilities, Suwanee was one of approximately 45 large freighters converted to transports to help bring the troops home from Europe. Transferred by the USSB to the Navy for operation, Suwanee (Id.No.1320) was commissioned at Brooklyn, N.Y., on 11 April 1919, Lt. Comdr. John Chambers, USNRF, in command.

Suwanee departed Brooklyn on 17 May 1919 on the first of her three transatlantic Navy trooping voyages and arrived at St. Nazaire, France, on 30 May. The converted freighter embarked troops on 1 June and sailed on 2 June for the United States, arriving at Charleston, S.C., on 15 June.

Suwanee departed Charleston on 22 June 1919 on her second voyage to St. Nazaire and arrived there on 5 July. She went alongside a pier the following day to embark troops and sailed on 7 July. Suwanee arrived at the Army transport dock at Lambert's Point, Norfolk, Va., on 20 July, disembarked her passengers, and then steamed to the Norfolk Navy Yard, Portsmouth, Va., for a few days of maintenance. She sailed from Portsmouth on 27 July and anchored at Brest, France, on 7 August. The ship swung at anchor in the Brest roadstead until 22 August, when she embarked troops and departed for the New York area. She arrived at Hoboken, N.J., on 3 September, disembarked her troops, and remained there until decommissioned and returned to the USSB on 4 October 1919.

The USSB sold Suwanee in 1920 to the Polish-American Navigation Co., a short-lived firm founded by Polish-Americans that renamed the ship Poznan. She was resold in 1922 to the Luckenbach Steamship Co. and served that firm as Paul Luckenbach until she was torpedoed and sunk on 22 September 1942 by the Japanese submarine I-29 in the Arabian Sea, approximately 800 miles from the coast of India. Although the four lifeboats carrying the entire 44-man complement and 17-man Armed Guard became separated during the 16-to-21 day voyages, all hands reached safety.


April 2023

Published: Wed Apr 26 13:13:12 EDT 2023